You've probably never heard of Sophia Grojsman, but you've most likely smelled her work. Dr. Sophia Grojsman is one of the most successful international perfumers ever and created many popular, well-known fragrances currently on the market. She presently serves as vice president and senior perfumer at International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF), a group which develops not only perfume, but also the scents and flavors in many commercial foods (like ice cream, fast food, and frozen dinners), toiletries, and household products. Interesting tidbit: in 1998, the IFF had NASA grow minature roses in space to test the theory that gravity had an effect on the flower's fragrance composition (which they found to be true).

Ms. Grojsman was born in the former Soviet Union. When she was a child, she did not have toys, but was surrounded by fields of wildflowers and green forests. Thus she developed a fascination with flowers and scents at an early age. At age 15 she moved to Poland and later received her degree in analytical inorganic chemistry. After immigrating to the United States in 1965, she joined the IFF the following year. She started out as a lab assistant to a senior perfumer and eventually moved up the ranks. Her mentors included Josephine Catapano and Ernest Shiftan, two legendary American perfumers

In the industry lingo, Sophia Grojsman is regarded as a "nose"--a master perfumer which is a profession that has perhaps fewer than 100 people in its ranks worldwide. Anyone who mixes up some essential oils in a bottle could call himself or herself a "perfumer." But to be regarded as a professional "nose" requires some remarkable olfactory abilities. For example, although a rose is a rose, a "nose" must be able to determine the type of rose, where it was grown, and how it was harvested from one whiff of the scent alone. Furthermore, a nose must be able to identify all the individual "notes" or components in a fragrance while most people can only distinguish a few at best.

Sophia Grojsman is the winner of many FiFi awards--a sort of "Oscars" of the fragrance industry--voted on annually by members of the non-profit Fragrance Foundation. Ms. Grojsman was also featured in a NOVA television documentary, "Mystery of the Senses - Smell," (1995) and was filmed while she was in the process of creating Champagne for Yves Saint Laurent. This perfume was later renamed Yvresse because French champagne makers argued that they have an exclusive right to the name "champagne" and won in court.

Furthermore, Dr. Grojsman is one of the first highly successful female noses. Perfume-making was traditionally a job handed down from father to son. Until the second half of the 20th century, perfumery had been dominated by male noses: Francois Coty, the generations of noses of the Creed and Guerlain families, Ernest Beaux who created Chanel No. 5, Edmond Roudnitska who worked extensively for Christian Dior and Rochas, etc. Sophia was honored by the Cosmetic Executive Women group in May 1999 for her lifetime achievement in the fragrance industry. She was described as "having created more fragrances sold today than any other perfumer in the history of mankind."

Ms. Grojsman compares the creation of a perfume to the composition of a symphony. "You have chords. You have crescendos. It's done in a different way, but it's the same thing."

Here is a very incomplete list of Ms. Grojsman's most successful fragrances:

Michael Edwards. Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances. Crescent House Publishing, 1999.

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